Palm Beach County activists use holiday cards to deliver anti-wage theft message to retailers

— Anti-wage theft activists delivered more than 1,500 holiday cards - and, they hoped, a message - to Macy's in CityPlace this afternoon.

Their goal: Registering their disappointment with the Florida Retail Federation's proposal of a state bill that would block passage of a wage theft ordnance in Palm Beach County. Paul Imbrone, a Macy's executive based in Miami, is vice chair of the federation.

The activists, who belong to Lake Worth's People Engaged in Active Community Efforts (PEACE), asked the local Macy's manager to give the "Stop Wage Theft" postcards, signed by members of the 26 local religious congregations who comprise PEACE, to Imbrone.

"We're not singling him out as a bad guy, but he is one of the guys in charge," said Barbara Roth, a founding member of PEACE and the action's point person.

For almost three years, PEACE has made wage theft a central issue. Day laborers are one group that's particularly vulnerable. "It's a matter of fairness," said the Rev. Chip Stokes of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Delray Beach. "And it's often the job of faith organizations to speak for the powerless."

PEACE pushed the Palm Beach County Commission to pass an ordnance that would create a vehicle for the swift investigation and processing of wage-theft claims. Navigating the court system can be costly and time-consuming.

Initially supportive of a county ordnance, the commission has tabled the proposal and scheduled a public hearing on the issue for March.

PEACE also attempted to deliver cards to the manager at Beall's in Royal Palm Beach this afternoon but said they were immediately told to leave the store. A Beall's executive is chairman of the Florida Retail Federation.

After politely collecting the cards in the Macy's vestibule, the manager on duty, Christina Andersen, said, "Now you all need to come in here and shop a little with us," but she had no further comment.

Outside the store, several passersby asked what the orderly group was protesting, but at least one CityPlace shopper expressed impatience with the scene.

"Jesus, get a job," he muttered as he hurried past.